Interaction in Virtual Worlds for Digital Storytelling ubicomp/projekte/master...Interaction in Virtual Worlds for Digital Storytelling ... visual and haptic stimuli. ... Markerless techniques tend to be less accurate and reliable
Post on 06-Mar-2018
Interaction in Virtual Worlds for DigitalStorytelling
Hochschule fur Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg (HAW), Berliner Tor 5, 20099Hamburg, email@example.com
Abstract. This paper provides an overview of Virtual Reality technolo-gies as they currently being explored in the scientific community. It alsoexamines key concepts and technologies which enable interaction in vir-tual worlds.
Digital Storytelling is a term with widely varying definitions. Its widest inter-pretation may be the use of digital media in the conveyance of narrative. Forthe purposes of this paper, digital storytelling shall be defined as the resolu-tion of linear narrative structures by means of user interaction in digital media.This definition highlights what may be its most significant difference from tradi-tional narrative formats: Probably for the first time, technological advances haveallowed the audience to interact with the narrative medium - and thereby influ-encing the narrative - without the need for a human storyteller to do so manually(or even be present at all). 1 This offers more freedom to storytellers and writers,who can now write complex, non-linear stories. While this ability to influencethe narrative may make it easier for the audience to immerse themselves in thestory, technical limitations of input and output devices can still make the inter-actions feel unintuitive, decreasing immersion and willing suspension of disbelief.New Virtual Reality (VR) technologies may mitigate this, enabling humans toexperience stories in a natural, intuitive and above all realistic way - blurringthe borders between imagination and reality.
2 Introduction and purpose of this paper
This paper will give a brief overview of the concepts and devices relating tovirtual worlds in general and input and output in VR in particular. Its focus liesin the means which make (human) interaction with such worlds possible, as thisis the enabling feature for non-linear digital storytelling within virtual worlds.Given the width of this field and the resulting briefness with which some of the
1 Though arguably some very limited means for users to change the narrative them-selves existed, such as pick-your-own-ending books
topics will have to be explained, the referenced literature may be consideredrecommended reading for further and in-depth study.  deserves special men-tion, as it offers more in-depth discussions of most of these abbreviated topics,in particular those relating to input and output in VR. The descriptions of thedifferent concepts for sensory input and output channels in VR are primarilymeant to provide the basis for the following and more verbose discussion of theinteraction concepts which rely on them.
3 Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) can be described as the simulation of reality by means ofgenerated and orchestrated stimuli. These stimuli are designed for humans tointerpret them as part of a coherent reality which does not, in fact, exist.To the present day, many concepts and devices have been developed for thegeneration of stimuli - though only a few of our senses have received the vastmajority of attention. Primary focus of scientific research has been the generationof auditory, visual and haptic stimuli.
3.1 The subjective nature of reality
Reality often differs significantly from the human perception of it. Humans re-ceive input from the world via their senses, then interpret that input based ontheir experience and instinct. The result may not correspond completely withreality. One example for this is the visual perception of color (wavelength of lightin the spectrum visible to us). We can have difficulty distinguishing between col-ored light being reflected from a white object and white light being reflectedfrom a colorful object. This allows for misinterpretations. Optical illusions, suchas grid illusions (a.k.a. Hermann grids) also serve well to illustrate the subjec-tiveness of perceived and interpreted stimuli which shape our view on reality.Such discrepancies open possibilities for deceiving our senses, thereby allowingfor the creation of virtual realities.
Human senses can be broadly categorized into interoceptive senses which receivestimuli from internal processes in our bodies and exteroceptive senses whichreceive stimuli from our surroundings. VR focuses on the generation of externalstimuli, so the exteroceptive senses most relevant to VR shall be mentioned herebriefly:
sight hearing smell taste touch
The first four originate in Aristotles De Anima (cf. ), while balance (a.k.a.equilibrioreception) has more recently started being considered another sense(cf. ). The existence and relative importance of each sense is subject of discus-sion in different fields, such as philosophy, anthropology, biology and medicine.As such, an in-depth discussion is not within the purview of this paper but inthat of specialized literature, such as . In VR research, the most prominentlyfeaturing senses are sight, hearing and touch. Nevertheless, the others shouldbe kept in mind when developing VR systems. This is especially true for bal-ance, since a sensory mismatch between equilibrioreception and the other senses(most notably vision) has been found to be of considerable concern, potentiallyresulting in a loss of balance 2 or the so-called simulator sickness (cf. ).
The term immersion has no universally agreed-upon definition. For this paper,the used definition shall be the technical definition by Slater and Wilbur (1997):Immersion is a description of a technology, and describes the extent to which thecomputer displays are capable of delivering an inclusive, extensive, surroundingand vivid illusion of reality to the senses of a human participant. Inclusive (I)indicates the extent to which physical reality is shut out. Extensive (E) indicatesthe range of sensory modalities accommodated. Surrounding (S) indicates theextent to which this virtual reality is panoramic rather than limited to a narrowfield. Vivid (V) indicates the resolution, fidelity, and variety of energy simulatedwithin a particular modality (for example, the visual and colour resolution).Vividness is concerned with the richness, information content, resolution andquality of the displays. 
Augmented Reality (AR) is a variation of VR which differs in one key aspect:It does not endeavor to replace stimuli from reality entirely, but to augmentthem with generated stimuli instead. An example for this could be a headsup display (HUD) displayed in AR goggles, e.g. as semi-transparent numbersindicating wind speed and direction in a sailors otherwise unaltered field ofvision. Storytelling could similarly use AR to enrich (alter) reality by means ofaugmentation rather than replace it, such as by simulating artificial people ontoa real environment. This flavor of VR use in storytelling is not in the focus ofthis paper.
3.5 VR input
In order to allow any form of interaction, input devices process user input, pass-ing the result on to the simulation of a virtual world, which may then react in
2 i.e. the ability to stand, not the sense
some way. User input can be any human action which may be detected by VRinput devices. It is essentially the counterpart to the human perception of vir-tual worlds: the systems perception of a human. As such, most input devicescould be assigned a sense they mimic. The devices perception of human ac-tions is most commonly called tracking, especially if they do so constantly (likea camera) rather than sporadically (such as a button). In recent years, the mostprevalent tracking concept is that of optical tracking, which will be explainedfirst and in more detail. Others include the use of acoustic, electromagnetic andinertial sensors (cf. , chapter 4). Other than by the sense they mimic, inputdevices may also be categorized by the kind of a humans observable actionsthey are intended to track, such as movements of the head and eyes, hands andfingers.Traditional and less intuitive input methods such as the use of a mouse or key-board are also still being employed. Their main advantage is that many usersare practiced in their use already. There have been attempts at adapting themto make them more suitable in a three-dimensional, virtual world, such as the3D mouse or the use of finger tracking (see below) with a virtual keyboardrepresentation inside the VR.
using markers Marker-based tracking uses two basic components: An opticalsensor, such as a camera, and an optical marker, such as an LED (or combinationof LEDs and reflectors). The markers are visible and clearly identifiable to theoptical sensor, therefore their relative positioning (to each other and the sensor)is simple to detect. They may be attached to the user, allowing the system toextrapolate the users state (such as position, orientation, movement of bodyparts, cf. ).
markerless Markerless tracking uses only an optical sensor. Algorithms endeavorto extrapolate relevant features from the optical input, such as which partsof the incoming feed belong to the user, other algorithms then interpret thesefeatures to determine the users state (such as position, orientation, movement ofbody parts, cf. ). Markerless techniques tend to be less accurate and reliablethan their marker-based counterparts, but the lack of markers makes for otherbenefits: The VR system is less obtrusive and does not require the user to havemarkers attached to them before use (also allowing for an easier switch fromuser to user).
Finger tracking Our fingers may be our most intuitive way to interact withobjects. Among all creatures on this earth, humans have an unusually high degreeof skill when it comes to manipulating objects with our extremities, most notablyour hands. The word manipulation itself originates in part from the latinword for hand. It is logical, therefore, that tracking of our fingers may helpfacilitate natural interactions with virtual worlds. Optical tracking has proven
to be particularly useful for this task (cf. ). A persistent problem remains thatof our reliance on haptic feedback when handling objects: Our hands and fingersare one of the most sensitive areas when it comes to haptic (touch) sensations.As such, it is important to consider the connection of finger tracking as inputand haptic feedback as output.
Eye tracking Our eyes are a powerful tool when perceiving our surroundings.For a number of interaction concepts, their ability to focus on an object withgreat speed and presicion is invaluable. A number of (markerless optical tracking)techniques exist for pinpointing positions we look at (e.g. cf. ) It should,however, not go without mention that terms such as gaze pointing or gazetracking are often applied to tracking of the users head, not their eyes.
3.6 VR output
Output devices as part of a VR system are meant to provide artificial stimulito humans as part of a coherent virtual reality. Humans rely on their sensesto different extents, which means that the artificial creation of some stimuli ismore important to a coherent virtual reality than that of others. For example,most humans rely mainly on visual and auditory perception of their surround-ings, making the correct simulation of corresponding stimuli paramount for thesimulation of a virtual environment. Nevertheless, stimuli for other senses maybe just as important in different contexts. Haptic sensations, for example, areimportant as a feedback channel for other interactions (cf. ).
Visual The human reliance on visual perception of their surroundings makescorrect visual simulation of a virtual world the most important aspect of a VRsystem in most cases. The most important categorization of visual output devicesis that of whether the device is physically connected (mounted) to the user. So-called Head-Mounted Displays or HMDs have recently and rapidly grown inpopularity and use (see section Future Trends). Other visual output devicesproject the simulation onto walls, ceiling and/or floor (such as the CAVEsystem) or use a number of displays to tile an area in much the same way.
Acoustic Especially for our perception of things outside of our optical fieldof view, we rely on acoustic senses. Humans are capable of interpreting minutedifferences such as latencies between the sound reaching either of their ears assound coming from a direction. This is also known as three-dimensional hearing(cf. ). To facilitate a convincing three-dimensional simulation, a VR systemneeds to emulate sound sources in the virtual world. Much like with displays, thetwo main strategies are to either mount the speakers directly on or in the usersears, such as using headphones, or to distribute a number of sound sources aroundthe user (such as speakers for surround sound or wavefield synthesis systems).Given the users ability to turn their head, head-mounted speaker based VR-Audio systems need to be equipped with the ability to react to this very quickly,
change the corresponding output of the speakers and keep intact the illusion ofthe sound sources being stationary.
Haptic Haptic sensations on our skin allow us to make assumptions about anobjects characteristics, such as surface structure, weight, mass and acceleration.As such, replicating haptic sensations is another focus of VR research (cf. ,, , )
Other Output devices exist even for other than the aforementioned senses, buttend to be in early stages of development and of limited use. Olfactory outputdevices for example tend to be cumbersome (due to the difficult delivery ofmolecules to the nose), prohibitively expensive and can only capable of providinglimited sets of stimuli ().
4 VR interaction
Given the input from the aforementioned input devices, this input then needsto be interpreted. In other words: A users action can only be used to facilitateinteraction if a meaning, an intention, can be assigned to it. Following this,the system then needs to respond accordingly. This often includes some sort ofoutput as feedback, be it to show the progress of an interaction or its outcome.Most interaction with computers outside of VR is still achieved via metaphorssuch as WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointers). In virtual worlds, traditionalmetaphors used in 2D graphical user interfaces may be problematic or impossibleto apply (cf. , p. 160).For example, the user may want to select a position to indicate wanting tointeract with something (such as a file) whose representation (such as an icon) islocated there. On a traditional two-dimensional interface they would move themouse to move the cursor to that position. In three-dimensional space, the firstneed which arises is that for an input device which permits selection in threedimensions, which could be satisfied by devices such as a 3D mouse or opticaltracking system of the users hand. However, not all points in that space canbe shown to the user with the same density - they may be closer to or furtheraway from the origin of the users perspective. This is problematic for a numberof reasons, such as the points to being either out of the users reach (such asbeing farther away than they could reach with their hand) or difficult to selectdue to the lack of precision at far distances. These problems lead (among otherthings) to the need for navigational controls, which allow the user to changetheir perspective on the world they interact in.This section will categorize and describe the most commonly used ways in whicha user interacts with virtual worlds. To do so, some ways of categorization willhave to be established. The first and most common distinction is based on theusers intention:
Selection (of a position or part of the virtual world)
Manipulation (of selected objects parameters)
Navigation (of the users representation and/or point of view in the virtualworld)
System Interaction (with VR system attributes not directly represented inthe virtual world)
The aforementioned types provide the structure of this section.Another categorization could be made using the aspect of natural vs. magical in-teraction: Natural interaction concepts try to replicate the way we may interactwith reality as much as possible, whereas magical interaction permits unnaturalor unrealistic but more powerful and versatile interaction. For example: It islikely to feel most natural to the user to only be able to grasp objects in onesown immediate vicinity. Drastically increasing the reach of the user, such as byenabling interactions with all objects in the users vision independent of theirdistance, is less natural, but significantly more powerful. The most appropriateinteraction design generally falls somewhere between these extremes. In the fol-lowing sections, the words natural and magical will be used to refer to theseconcepts.A third distinction can be the users point of view during the interaction. Ego-centric interactions allow the user to interact directly with objects from theirperceived position in the virtual world (i.e. that of the camera and their avatar).Exocentric interactions on the other hand permit the user a point of view onthe target of the interaction not dependent on their own location and orienta-tion. For example, a user may use a smaller, scaled down and possibly simplifiedrepresentation of a part of the virtual world (like a map) to interact with theobjects represented therein. This is also known as World in Miniature (or WIM).
4.1 Importance of Feedback
Feedback is another noteworthy aspect of interaction design. In reality, manyinteractions result in immediate feedback via sensory stimuli. For example: Whenwe touch an object we feel its surface texture, temperature and pressure againstour skin. Depending on the object and interaction, we may also hear the collision,or see the object move. Instinct and experience will lead us to expect a certainfeedback from objects, a lack may result in reduced immersion. We also rely onthis feedback during an interaction, for example: We need the sensations causedby an objects weight and mass to accurately throw it. Intended interactionsmay even be canceled as a result: When intending to pick up a cup of hotcoffee, we may stop doing so and even drop it once we perceive the heat it isemitting. Feedback is not limited to touch, either: when we look at or talk toa person or animal, they may react to this, resulting in feedback. Designingappropriate feedback mechanisms may therefore be essential for some forms ofnatural interaction.
4.2 Selection Interactions
Selection as a VR interaction category may be defined as the set of user inputwhich the VR system interprets as indicating a position, point, surface or objectin the space of the virtual world. The most important one could be called point-ing: The user indicates a ray originating from at or near their point of view,toward the target of the selection. Its widespread use could be attributed toour reliance on sight, especially when initiating an interaction with a real-worldobject. Pointing and related selection concepts are discussed in a dedicated sec-tion. Many other ways to indicate a position, point or surface exist, however. Forexample: The user may use a designated name or coordinates of an object, bytyping them into a keyboard or talking to a voice interface. While less intuitivein some cases (especially when unnatural, such as typing into a keyboard ratherthan speaking), these concepts are nonetheless useful in certain circumstances,such as the object being out of the users line of sight. Especially selection bymeans of verbal communication may feel natural to the user while providing apotentially very powerful means of selecting objects outside of the users field ofvision.
Pointing Pointing interaction at its simplest can be defined using two vectors:a positional and a directional vector. The first specifies an origin, typically ator near the users own position in the virtual world and therefore implicitlygiven. The second indicates a direction. The directional vector may be specifiedimplicitly, such as by the orientation of the users view frustum, or explicitlyusing a pointing device. This could for example be the users tracked hand orfinger, or a 3D mouse. The simplest way of using such a two-vector system toindicate a position or object is to determine the first intersection of a ray (fromorigin along the direction) with a surface. Most often, this is done when the userperforms another simple action, such as pressing a button or pulling a trigger,though it is also possible select without such an explicit trigger. One problemwith systems which allow for selection by means of only pointing (no trigger) isthat users may have a hard timenot selecting objects. This is also known as theMidas Touch Problem (cf. , p. 163). An alternative for trigger mechanisms,which only attempt one selection along the pointing ray, is the use of modes:One mode for selection active (where selection is constantly attempted) andone for selection inactive (where no selection is attempted). The user can thenswitch between these modes using other (system) interactions). In some VR sys-tems, such as ones utilizing Smartphone-based HMDs (see section below), it isalso not unusual to trigger a selection by specifying both vectors (by turningones head) and keeping the resulting ray on an object for a few seconds. Here,the Midas Touch Problem can be avoided by not looking at any other objectfor long enough to trigger the selection.The pointing range is another factor in selection interaction design. Typical lim-its include the approximate length of the users arm or the boundaries of a roomthe user is in - most often ranges at which the user is considered to still be able toaccurately select all relevant objects. It has been shown that longer ranges make
selection difficult due to a lack of accuracy, but techniques exist for leveragingthis problem (see below).A problem with pointing using rays can be the interpretation of the extent in-tended for selection: A user pointing at another users avatars eye may mean theeye, head, avatar or corresponding other user. Contextual information is neededto interpret the selection correctly. Simple pointing such as the one explainedabove can be enhanced in any number of ways. Using contextual targeting aidsat longer distances means that even pointing near an object causes the objectto be selected, provided no other object is closer to the targeted point. Alter-natively, instead of using a ray along which selection may be performed a conecould be used. This is known as a flashlight technique, since such a cone mayresemble the cone of light from a flashlight. Depending on its implementation,objects which are located within the cone and perhaps also those intersectingwith it would be selected.Pointing techniques can be exocentrical as well. World in Miniature (WIM) im-plementations for example may allow the user to use pointing techniques onsmall-scale representations.
4.3 Manipulation Interactions
Manipulation interactions may be defined as the set of user input which the VRsystem interprets as indication of a users desire to change an objects param-eters (such as position, orientation, size or shape). This kind of interaction hasa close relationship with feedback mechanisms: Having selected an object andnow executing a manipulation interaction such as wanting to move then object,the user may expect to be able to see (or feel) the object move. Manipulationmost often directly follows selection (as in the example above), which leads to anecessity to design both selection and manipulation interactions together, so theuser may use them coherently. Exceptions exist, however, especially when a VRsystem is designed to mimic interactions in reality precisely: In , a VR systemfor training personnel in the manipulation of nanotubes is described. Due tothe extremely small scale of these nanotubes, the same probe which allows theirmanipulation is also used for scanning their current position and orientation. Inthis case, the users needed to rely on the generated and purely haptic feedbackof the VR. They had to sense and manipulate objects in the same step, withouta way to separate the tasks of selection and manipulation, because one necessi-tated the other.Manipulation in virtual worlds does not always need to resemble reality either,this depends on the purpose of the VR system. In some cases, it may be beneficialto give the user a way to manipulate aspects of the VR in powerful, magical waysnot possible in reality, such as moving objects with gestures. This is especiallyimportant when considering interaction ranges: The range of physical interac-tion (esp. grasping) available to us in reality is very limited, especially whencompared to our much greater visual range. Especially exocentrical techniquesprovide powerful alternatives. WIM implementations for example can allow theuser to keep track of large-scale manipulations of entire sections of the virtual
world. For manipulation of a single object, it can also be beneficial to (uponits selection) provide the user with a simplified version of only the object, with-out its surroundings. This is especially the case if available input devices havesignificant limitations, such as allowing only two-dimensional interactions: TheVirtual Sphere and Arcball techniques for example have been developedfor allowing the use of essentially two-dimensional input for rotating a singlethree-dimensional object (cf. ).
4.4 Navigation Interactions
The larger the virtual world and the less knowledge of its topology the user has,the greater the need for well-designed navigation interaction. To go into availabletechniques, the complex task shall be split into two basic concepts: Way finding(or path finding) to find a path from origin to destination and traveling to changeposition. It should be noted, however, that the term navigation is often used todescribe only what is defined here as traveling: Interactions allowing changesin orientation and position of an object such as the users avatar (e.g. in ).The task of navigation in VR can be accomplished in one of several basic ways: Auser may indicate their intended destination (i.e. selecting it), expecting the VRto guide them to it. This requires path finding algorithms as well as a means forguiding the user, such as visual cues or written/spoken instructions, and travelinginteractions to actually change position. Alternatively, users may attempt to findthe path themselves, memorizing it (forming a mental map of sorts) and travelingaccordingly. For this, they need detailed information of the virtual world, eitherthrough prior knowledge or sources of information such as a WIM representationor a map. This is also known as way finding (see below). Lastly, the user mayforgo traveling altogether and only select the desired destination, resulting ininstantaneous relocation. This is arguably the easiest and least natural way,reducing way finding to destination selection.
Way finding To get to a destination, we first need to know the path to it. Asmany ways as we have to find a path in reality (route planners, asking otherpeople, maps, signs), way finding in VR can be quite different. First of all, vir-tual worlds do not necessarily much resemble reality. For example, they may nothave other people we could ask, or streets we could follow. Secondly, they mayallow for traveling modalities impossible or improbably difficult in reality (seebelow), such as flying, extreme velocity changes or instantaneous relocation fromone point to the next (a.k.a. teleportation).VR simulations designed to represent reality as naturally as possible often re-semble it far enough that traditional way finding techniques can be used withlittle or no effort for adaption. For example: In , Ropinski et al. propose atechnique for navigating virtual representations of cities using road maps.Not so natural and realistic virtual worlds may offer more powerful navigationconcepts. The downside is that they will also require that the users know how touse these concepts. Through careful design (for which game design may provide
inspiration), this can still be intuitive and be learned efficiently, but it may alsonecessitate the users explicit instruction (e.g. through tutorials, manuals).
Traveling Once a path to a destination has been identified, most often move-ment is required - in every case aside from instantaneous travel. Movement inter-action in a three-dimensional environment is, in some ways, not unlike pointingand may (for every instant/frame) be defined using the following information:
an object to be moved, with an origin and orientation a directional vector pointing in the direction in which travel is desired
Velocity may be predefined or based on user input. The object to be moved isnormally the camera object which represents the users location and view frus-tum in the virtual world. Often, an avatar representation is attached to it. Assuch, the origin and orientation is known implicitly; the user needs to indicatea direction. The following approaches are among the most common.Walking as the standard mode for human travel in reality is basis for the mostnatural traveling interactions concepts. The users movements can be trackedusing the aforementioned tracking techniques. It does impose some drastic limi-tations, however: The user changes position in reality, too, which requires a) theVR devices to cover a free area large enough to accommodate such movementas the user will exhibit or b) the VR devices to move with them. Given thefinite space in reality available in most use cases, there are two basic ways toallow the user to move freely: Having the user walk without moving at all, orredirecting the user with VR output, making them think they are walking freelybut actually causing them to only walk within the available space.The simplest option is the user purposely walking on the spot. This feels lessnatural, but can deliver enough input to be interpreted as walking in a directionand with a certain speed. Other methods include the use of treadmills. Tradi-tional treadmills allow for movement only in one direction, limiting the optionswhere indication of direction is concerned. Omnidirectional treadmills solve thatproblem by allowing the user to walk in any direction, just like they are used to.In addition to permitting omnidirectional movement, they may also be used forthe input of that direction into the VR.Redirected walking has been the focus of a number of researchers in the recentyears, who have demonstrated that VR-based stimuli can cause the users realmovements to be redirected in an unintended direction without their notice (cf.).It is also not uncommon to use a traditional combination of keyboard and mousefor traveling interactions of the users own avatar. At perhaps its most basic, themouse is used for yaw and pitch axes, with one to four additional key interactionfor movement forward as well as left, right, up and down (relative to orienta-tion). A flight stick is an alternative, adding a roll axis. These combination arecommonly found in 3D games such as first-person shooters and flight simulatorsand therefore easily accessible for many people. Nevertheless, they are far fromintuitive and require the user to use one or both of their hands. Other concepts
track the users head, torso or legs to allow for defining an orientation and othermethods (such as buttons) for movement, freeing at least one of the users handsas a mouse or flight stick are not required.The simulation of physics is another factor in designing traveling interaction. Inreality, all aspects of movement are defined by many factors, such as the mass ofthe moving object, gravity and friction. The more realistic a simulation is meantto be, the more it will need to take physics into account. This may also meanthat the users intention of moving a certain way (such as into the air or througha wall) may have to be overruled.
4.5 System Interactions
VR systems generally need to permit some interactions which have less to dowith the virtual world being represented and more with the VR simulation asa whole. Examples for this could be: turning simulations on or off, selectinga virtual world, saving progress, switching modes or changing settings. Theseinteractions are inherently unnatural. This makes their intuitive use difficult,but not impossible: An example could be the interpretation of voluntary (andeven involuntary) indications of a users distress as interaction, such as shuttingones eyes, screaming, a high heart rate or spasms, resulting in the simulationbeing turned off immediately.
5 Future trends
It seems likely that the market for VR application and therefore the push fortechnological advances will grow quickly in the near future, a trend which isfueled by companies like Google and Samsung. They recently introduced a twovarieties of VR devices to the market: a lower-budget technique using smart-phones with their screens and sensors as the center of portable VR goggles(Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR) and high-budget stationary VR goggleswith higher resolutions and different features. Game developers, especially smallindependent studios, are already intensifying efforts to come up with ways touse these devices and market the results. In light of these trends, research intoVR technologies will likely grow in recognition and popularity.It may be worth asking why these new products have sparked so much interest.This seems to be due to two separate factors: The inclusion of game developersand the ubiquity of high-quality graphics capable smartphones.
5.1 Smartphones (Or: did you know you already own a VR device?)
The concept of using smartphones as the basis for VR devices has recentlycrossed the boundary from research and development to large-scale consumermarket offerings. The two main offers here are the Oculus Gear VR and GoogleCardboard, though a number of less well known firms have produced similar
products (often even simpler and cheaper). Both are little more than strapsand holders allowing the user to mount their smartphone right in front of theireyes, while dividing the phones screen into two sections, one for each eye. Thisallows for a simple stereoscopic 3D simulation. While they may indeed servewell to demonstrate the basic idea of VR, they are far from state-of-the-artVR systems. Aside from lacking the high resolution and wide view frustums ofother VR systems, they also do not offer many ways of delivering input intothe simulation. Only some of them offer anything other than tracking of headorientation, such as a hole in the phone holder to allow the user to press thephones buttons. Nevertheless, their mobility offers new possibilities as well, andthe increased popularity and presence of VR in the public consciousness maygive rise to new ideas and interest in research.
5.2 Inclusion of game developers
Computer games represent the most widespread use of three-dimensional virtualenvironments. Game developers and programmers in that industry have a greatdeal of experience creating convincing and immersive 3D environments. Thisexperience is of great value in the development of VR applications, as VR-Worlds have significantly more in common with 3D Games than with traditional2D desktop systems and metaphors such as WIMP. It would appear that thefirms developing market-ready VR solutions have noticed this: In recent years,they have started cooperating closely with game developers and game enginemakers.Another result of this is that a number of games on the market already supportVR devices before those devices themselves are being offered to consumers. Thismeans that there is a large number of consumers willing to buy the VR devicesright from the start, when their prices (and related profits for the producers) arestill very high.Three-dimensional games are still a trove of interaction concepts. Research overthe next few years will show which of them are applicable in VR, as well as theresulting benefits and drawbacks.
The design of interaction concepts and corresponding techniques and devices isa key component in the creation of VR systems. I would like to propose thedevelopment of a framework for testing such VR interactions. The frameworkwill be based on a simple user story. This could, for example, be a VR consistingof a virtual room containing a number of objects, implementations of interactionconcepts for these objects, as well as tasks for the testers. Evaluation of eachcombination of interaction concepts shall be based upon:
observation and measurement of the testers performance in combinationwith appropriate metrics
evaluation of the user experience by means of questionnaires
The primary goal of this framework will be the evaluation of the usability of VRinteraction concepts.
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